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Encounter antidote

New Delhi, June 25: Every encounter death will be probed within 24 hours of the incident and states’ law-and-order powers will be curtailed, if the Centre accepts a recommendation by a panel.

The Administrative Reforms Committee has also suggested that the Centre be empowered to deploy forces in states to restore order.

Headed by Veerappa Moily, the committee today submitted its report on public order to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The report contains radical measures for police reforms, including a law to deal with federal crimes.

Terrorism, human trafficking, sedition, assassination of public figures and serious economic offences are classified as federal crimes.

The panel has upheld an earlier recommendation to repeal the Armed Forces (special powers) Act — now in force in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir — that allows arrest and search without warrant.

The proposal to probe encounter killings comes in the wake of disclosures on the cold-blooded murders of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife in Gujarat.

An independent inspectorate should be set up to probe encounter deaths within 24 hours. Its findings should be submitted to a police performance accountability commission, the panel said.

In a state where the constitutional machinery is on the verge of breakdown, central deployment — initially for three months — of forces has been recommended.

These forces should be deployed only when the Centre’s directives under Article 256 (related to compliance with laws) of the Constitution are ignored.

The report said crime investigation should not be part of police functions and suggested that a crime investigating agency be constituted in each state. It should be headed by a chief of investigation under the administrative control of a board headed by a sitting judge of the high court.

This means taking the state governments out of the investigation process.

The committee said confessions made before the police should be admitted after mandatory video-recordings. The same method should be used to prevent witnesses from turning hostile.

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